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Rachel Simmons

Professor of Art
Rollins College
Winter Park, FL 32789


Rachel Simmons is an artist-educator who teaches foundations, printmaking and book arts at Rollins College, an innovative liberal arts institution founded in 1885 in Winter Park, Florida. Rachel began teaching at Rollins in 2000 after earning her MFA in Painting & Drawing from Louisiana State University. Her diverse practice is informed by the tensions surrounding globalization, ecotourism, activism, climate change & sustainability. In Rachel’s socially engaged art projects, she asks community participants to think critically and creatively about our relationship with nature.

Endlessly curious about the natural world and our relationship with it, Rachel often collaborates with scholars from other academic disciplines and members of her community to create new work. Current collaborative projects include the environmental graphic narrative Future Bear with historian Julian Chambliss, and Visible Climate: The Future of Our National Parks with geographer Lee Lines.  She has traveled to Antarctica, Iceland, Namibia, the Galapagos Islands and many of the US National Parks to research environmental issues pertaining to these projects. During and after her travels, she engages in an active practice of reflection through visual journals and altered books based on her experiences.

Rachel's work is included in the Lawrence University Special Book Collection, the private collection of Jacqueline Bradley and Clarence Otis, Jr., The Orange County Regional History Center, the University of Central Florida Book Arts Collection, the Depaul University Richardson Library Special Collections and several other private collections. Many of her artist’s books are on commission with Vamp and Tramp Booksellers. Her work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally at venues such as The American Association for the Advancement of Science, in Washington, D.C. and at the Gullkistan Residency for Creative People, in Laugarvatn, Iceland. Her project FLOCK is currently on view at Central Print in St. Louis, MO.


Throughout my career as an artist-educator, I have communicated my boundless curiosity about the natural world. My diverse printmaking-based practice originates from my interdisciplinary undergraduate education in which I was encouraged to consider complex issues from a multitude of perspectives. Twenty years later, I am still drawn to a wide variety of research interests beyond visual art, especially those which seek to decode the complexities between the evolution of culture and the environment.

Traveling has also broadened my perspective; I have developed bodies of work around different topics rooted in an exploration of our relationship with nature. In 2006, I began thinking more and more about the declining health of the oceans, witnessed first-hand on trips to the Pacific islands of Gal√°pagos and Hawaii; and in response I made a body of work titled Wonders of the Sea. Later, after two consecutive voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula, I shifted my focus towards studying the effects of ecotourism, climate change and exploration on the polar landscape in Terra Nova. In my current body of work, The Language of Watching, my aim is once again to explore our relationship to nature, this time through the fascinating subculture of birdwatching. To work effectively in such a wide-ranging manner, with so many perspectives and disciplines in the mix, I often collaborate with colleagues in other fields who also see art as an exciting platform for interdisciplinary research and social change. Projects with physicist Thomas Moore, geographer Lee Lines and historian Julian Chambliss and others, have challenged us to face our cultural assumptions about artists and scientists, and to create work that blurs the boundaries of our disciplines.

There are two essential ingredients to my process––collaboration & community. To engage viewers as active participants, I have been practicing socially engaged art since I began teaching. Printmakers are by nature collaborative people anyway. We share communal work spaces and equipment; we have always been at the heart of spreading thoughts and ideas to the masses. As a contemporary artist, I use printmaking in equal ways to communicate, build community and inspire social change. Many of my projects have a social component, whether I am working directly with others to make a flock of bird prints or whether I am teaching my students how to design a socially engaged project themselves.

Aside from their inherent connections to community-building, printmaking & artist’s books are important to my practice because I am drawn to the beautiful and complex relationship between text and image. I have always been a writer——keeping daily journals, travel journals and altering books since I was young. Working with letterpress allows me to feel text as a physical material; choosing each metal or wooden letter with my hands slows my thinking, allowing time to consider the visual and physical weight of each word I use.


Project Descriptions

Conceited Rural Dandies (2016)
Letterpress & screen prints, cyanotype, thread and paper. Open 28” x 6” x 4”, Closed 6” x 6” x .75”

Birdhouse with Surveys (2015)
Letterpress & screen prints, cyanotype, thread and paper. 7” x 13” x 10”

Surveys (2015)

How to Speak to Birds (2018)
Letterpress print, cyanotype, thread and paper. Open 12.5” x 6.75” x 4” Closed 6.25” x 6.75” x .75”

FLOCK (at Central Print) (2015–19)
Relief prints on paper. 30’ x 12’

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